Trade Secrets

Trade secrets from the remodeling industry

January 31, 2008

If you have a Trade Secret you would like to share, e-mail Senior Editor Jonathan Sweet at

Make a smooth exit


Selling a remodeling company can be a difficult undertaking. It can be tough to find an exit strategy that not only allows a remodeler freedom, but also makes it possible to profit from the experience.

But through hard work and careful planning, Paul and Nina Winans were able to do just that. After running Winans Construction in Oakland for nearly 30 years, the couple sold the company last year.

One of the key decisions the Winans made was to use a broker to sell the company rather than go it on their own. In February 2006, they made their first tentative steps by advertising the company for sale but quickly pulled it off the market when they realized they weren't ready to sell.

In November 2006, they decided to hire a broker after hearing consultant Kraig Kramers speak at a Remodelers Advantage meeting. The Winans decided they would look for a consultant that was based in California and had experience selling small service businesses, Nina says. They found four companies that met their requirements, talked with two of them and eventually ended up hiring one from the Bay Area.

"We chose her because she was in our area, and we only had to pay her if the company sold," Nina says. "The others wanted money up front."

From that point, things moved swiftly. The company was listed in January 2007, a successful offer was made in May and the sale closed Aug. 1.

Besides working with a broker, several other things were key in making the company attractive to a buyer. The Winans paired the real estate where the office was located with the business, a move that made the investment more attractive to a lender, Paul says. It also helped that the company's brand had been built for years by quality work, seminars for consumers and Paul's writing articles in the local paper.

The Winans' frequent travels for vacations and industry events had also shown the company could run without them because of the extensive systems and procedures they had put in place. And most importantly, the company made a good profit.

"We were working reasonable hours and making good money, which is what made it an attractive company," Paul says. "If we were running more volume at a lower margin or doing the same volume and working 60 to 80 hours a week, it would have been less attractive."

Despite the sale, the Winans are both keeping busy, Paul as a facilitator with Remodelers Advantage and Nina as a membership coordinator with the local NARI chapter.

"It's really key if somebody is selling the business that they have an idea of what they're going to do with their lives," Nina says. "Otherwise, I think you could be sitting there wondering if you made a big mistake, because it is a big change."

For more information, e-mail Paul at 

Links to more information:

CEO Tools by Kraig Kramers

Tips for finding a business broker

2001 PR article on Winans Construction


The Green Piece: Invest in a 'Green Guy'

For years, Landis Construction in Washington, D.C., has been experimenting with various green remodeling practices, but as customer interest has increased over the last year, the company looked for a way to improve its ability to meet its green needs.

Enter the "Green Guy," as principal Chris Landis calls him. Russell Clark came on board last fall as a project manager to lead the company's green efforts.

"The goal is to green all aspects of the operation, from marketing to sales to production to our office," Clark says. "Even after the project is finished, we leave clients information on how to green their homes."

Clark has an extensive background in environmental work and construction. In 1995, he founded GreenHOME, a local non-profit that focuses on green construction and methods, and he also spent several years working for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Clark is charged with finding new green suppliers and green trade partners, as well as with evaluating products. He's already helped make significant differences in the products the company uses on projects and in the company, such as replacing the cleaning products used in the office with green supplies, Landis says.

"We want to be on the leading edge, and he acts as a conduit for all that green information," Landis says. "By having one person responsible for managing this, it's made us much more efficient."

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